Mandaluyong police chief, 10 others relieved for 'mistaken identity' shooting

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Investigators check the aftermath of a Dec. 28 shooting on Shaw Boulevard in Mandaluyong City that left one dead.

Story updated to include statements of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre and Mandaluyong City Mayor Menchie Abalos.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 29) — Mandaluyong City police chief Senior Supt. Moises Villaceran and 10 other officers have been administratively relieved following a deadly shooting that may be a case of mistaken identity.

The other officers include:

  • Senior Insp. Maria Cristina Vasquez
  • PO2 Nel Lemuel Songalia
  • PO1 Algred Uribe
  • PO1 Jave Arellano
  • PO1 Tito Danao
  • PO1 Mark Castillo
  • PO1 Julius Libuen
  • PO1 Bryan Nicolas
  • PO1 Albert Buwag
  • PO1 Kim Rufford Tibunsay

National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Director Oscar Albayalde said on Friday that the officers will be transferred to the NCRPO headquarters in Taguig City while the incident is investigated.

"We're not hiding anything here," he said in a press briefing. "We are not discounting the fact that posibleng merong overkill or violation ng ating POP."

The POP pertains to the Philippine National Police Operations Manual, which lists guidelines that police officers must follow.

Speaking to CNN Philippines News Night, Albayalde said the officers were relieved to ensure an impartial probe.

"This is just an administrative leave... It's part of our SOP (standard operating procedure) to pave the way for an impartial investigation, and that also includes the chief of police," he said.

He assured there would be no whitewashing of the incident.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said on Friday that the matter "will be investigated fully even if there appears to be excessive force utilized by police authorities."

"It's also proper that policemen involved have been disarmed and their movements restricted," he added.

On Friday, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to look into the incident.

Police fed wrong information

On Thursday night, officers fired at a white Mitsubishi Adventure on Shaw Boulevard that was reported to be carrying the gunman of a prior shooting in Barangay Addition Hills in Mandaluyong.

However, Villaceran said they learned the van's passengers were only helping Jonalyn Ambaon, who was shot at the Addition Hills incident, and rushing her to a hospital.

Read: 1 dead in case of 'mistaken identity' in Mandaluyong police shooting

"Allegedly habang hinahabol, nagpapaputok rin yung mga barangay tanod. So na-alarm yung mga pulis natin, nag-conduct kami ng dragnet operation para ma-corner ang suspect, not knowing na hindi pala ito ang sasakyan ng suspect," he said.

[Translation: Allegedly while chasing the van, the barangay tanod was also shooting them. So, the police was alarmed and we conducted a dragnet operation to corner the suspect, not knowing that this was not the suspect's vehicle.]

Albayalde said barangay tanods (community watchmen) who responded to the first shooting gave the wrong information to police officers.

"Hindi natin masisi, siyempre, yung ating mga pulis doon na initial na thinking nila, may talagang armado," he said. "Kasi there was a shooting incident and 'yun yung fineed ng mga barangay sa kanila. Armado yung nasa Adventure."

[Translation: We, of course, can't blame our police officers for initially thinking that there really was someone armed in the car. There was a shooting incident and that was what the barangay fed to them. That there was an armed person in the Adventure.]

Albayalde added that the barangay tanods that chased the Adventure were reportedly armed.

"Sinasabi nga nila, while on their way, pinuputukan na sila ng barangay tanod," he said. "'Yun ang lumalabas kasi based on the CCTV, merong may baril talaga doon sa loob ng mobile."

[Translation: They said that while they were on their way to the hospital, the barangay tanods were shooting at them. Based on the CCTV footage, the people inside the patrol car had guns.]

Executive Order 546 allows the Philippine National Police (PNP) to deputize barangay tanods as "force multipliers."

Meanwhile, a 2008 memorandum circular by the National Police Commission, the agency that handles the PNP, allows barangay tanods to be deputized as members of the Police Auxiliary Unit (PAU).

PAU members are allowed to carry firearms, provided that they wear proper uniform, finish the required training and that the guns are registered to the barangay.

However, speaking to News Night, Albayalde said barangay tanods are not allowed to carry guns on duty.

"If you have a permit to carry firearms, yes you're allowed to bear firearms but you cannot use it for your duty as barangay tanod," Albayalde said. "Hindi mo puwedeng ilabas yan at ibrandish sa labas yung baril mo[You can't brandish that gun outside.]."

Mandaluyong City Mayor Menchie Abalos condemned the incident, adding that she has ordered the suspension and investigation of the tanods of Barangay Addition Hills.

"The duty of our barangay tanods is to patrol their respective areas of jurisdiction," she said in a Friday statement. "And in those instances where their lives might be placed in peril, their duty is not to fire shots to anyone, but immediately report the incident to the police offcers."

"Besides, barangay tanods are not supposed to bring firearms while in their tour of duty," Abalos added.

Van passenger killed

Jomar Hayaun, one of the passengers of the van, was killed in the incident, while Ambaon eventually died in the hospital.

Ambaon's partner Eliseo and their companion Danilo Santiago remain in critical condition at the Mandaluyong City Medical Center.

Albayalde said the Addition Hills incident was triggered by an altercation between construction workers and a group delivering LPG gas tanks.

Following the altercation, a shot was fired and hit Ambaon, who was the girlfriend of one of the construction workers, on the head.

She was rushed to the car. However, Albayalde said Abdurahman Alpin, one of the men from the other group had told the tanods that the victims riding the Mitsubishi Adventure were armed.

"Habang paalis sila, Alfin went to the barangay hall at siya ang nagsumbong. He deceived the barangay tanods there na yung nakasakay sa Adventure ay armed,"  he said.

[Translation: While they were leaving, Alpin went to the barangay hall. He deceived the barangay tanods into thinking those riding the Adventure were armed.]

Albayalde said none of the construction workers had weapons with them.

Villaceran said at least nine police officers are also in custody, along with two of the three barangay tanods in the car,  for investigation.

The former police chief said they will be dismissed from service and charged with murder or homicide if the investigation shows they are at fault.

CNN Philippines Senior Correspondent Ina Andolong and Correspondent Camille Abadicio contributed to this report.